II.36 सत्यप्रतिष्ठायां क्रियाफलाश्रयत्वम
BKS Iyengar: “When the sadhaka* is firmly established in the practice of truth, their words become so potent that whatever they say comes to realization.”
Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, page 150
Pratiṣṭhāyām: Having established
Kriya: Action, doing
Phala: Fruit, results
Āśrayatvam: On which something depends/rests on
What is Satya?
Satya is the second of the Yamas**, after Ahimsa (non-violence). Satya comes from the Sanskrit root “Sat”, to be, being, existing. So, one can think of Satya as the state of being, what is, as is. With establishment of truthfulness, the state of fearlessness comes. Our minds become clear and serene, our lives an open book. When we are established in truthfulness, the fruits of our actions are guaranteed [2, p124]. How nice! But how do we get to this state of absolute truthfulness?
Reflecting on the fact that the Yamas are universal vows, to be practiced regardless of by whom, where, when or under what circumstances (Sutra II.31), Satya then presents deeper layers to be peeled. Satya or non-falsehood is harmony of thought, actions, and words, unvarnished, unchanged by biases, situations, circumstances, as-is. This means no white lies, either!
Is that simple though? Guruji says, “Most of us think we tell the truth, but truth is causal, not integrated, and cellular. For instance, if we say, “I’ll never eat chocolates again”, as long as one cell of our body holds back, our success is not assured. If the stated intention is totally whole-hearted, not one cell dissembling, then we create the reality we desire [1, p150].”
**Yama: 1st limb of Ashtanga Yoga, Behavioral codes prescribed by Patanjali
Fruits of action and Satya
“Truth is an absolute of staggering power. The Vedas say that nothing that is not founded in truth can bear fruit or bring a good result. Truth is the soul communicating with the conscience. If the conscience transmits this to the consciousness and then it turns into actions, it is as if our acts become divine, because there is no interruption between the vision of the soul and the execution of its acts.” B.K.S. IYENGAR, Light on Life, p250
E.Bryant [4, p262] says that Satya is cultivated by willpower, the determination never to lie. This power of simple truth can sway the mind of the listener to act in accordance with the yogi’s words. When one meets a saintly person situated in truthfulness, one senses that unlike all other people, this person has no desire or inclination to exploit or manipulate other for personal interest.
R. Mehta [3, p162] says, “We look for fulfillment of our actions in the fruit that may ensue. Naturally, if the reward does not come, one becomes unhappy. For one who is established in Satya or non-falsehood, every action is complete, leaving no residue behind.”
Satya and Ahimsa: Which holds priority?
Following this Yama means that we can no longer tell white lies either. But what if speaking the truth causes harm? Let’s look at this story below.
There was a sage renowned for his austerities and observance of the vow of truth. Once when he was sitting by his little hut, a frightened man with a bundle ran past him and disappeared into a cave nearby. Soon after there came a band of fierce robbers with gleaming knives, apparently looking for this man. Knowing that the sage would not lie, they asked him where the man with the bundle was hiding. At once, the sage, true to his vow of not uttering falsehood, showed them the cave. The cruel robbers rushed in, dragged out the scared man, killed him mercilessly and departed with his bundle. The sage never realized God despite his austerities and tenacity for truth because he had been instrumental in the murder of a man.
While this is an extreme illustration, this is not the kind of truth that yoga requires. Ahmisa or non-violence is the central Yama and the other four are in service of this Yama [2, p124]. Satya should be observed in a manner as to not bring harm to anyone.
Food for thought
- What does Guruji’s interpretation of “It is not our mind but the inner voice of our cells” that need to implement Satya mean to you? How does this show up in your practice?
- When you practice, observe how you see you—do you see your pose as you are in the present as you aspire to be? Does that make you overdo or under-do?
- How do you balance the practice of Satya and Ahimsa in your life? Do you find yourself telling white lies to avoid causing hurt? A simple example, how would you respond if your friend asks you, “do I look fat in this dress?”
- Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: B.K.S. Iyengar
- The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: Sri Swami Satchidananda
- The Art of Integration: Rohit Mehta
- The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: Edwin F. Bryant
- Internet sources: Julia Shaida, Swami Ji